A Psalm of Subjection [poem by Joseph Furphy]

[Editor: This poem by Joseph Furphy was published in The Poems of Joseph Furphy (1916).]

A Psalm of Subjection.

Nurse your “unconquerable soul,”
But diligently bear in mind
That Life is not a wayward stroll,
For Circumstance asserts control,
And fiercely prods you up behind.
This dictum you can safely trust —
Growl you may, but Go you must.

Though you may shaft with all your might,
And kick against the goad, like Paul,
Though you may prop, and squeal, and bite,
You still put up a losing fight —
Unconquerable soul, and all.
Still subject to Compulsion’s thrust,
Growl you may, but Go you must.

Have done with bluff, for Satan’s sake,
A bulrush never can be strong.
You’re overmatch’d — make no mistake —
The option is to bend or break;
In either case, you’re forced along,
And what avails your cheap disgust?
Growl you may, but Go you must.

In point of fact, your name is Sludge,
And puppet-like your lot is cast,
For though you may rebel and grudge,
And spitefully refuse to budge,
Your claim will be pegg’d out at last.
Sludge to sludge, and dust to dust —
Growl you may, but Go you must.

Next hear St. Peter’s challenge keen,
“My son, you’ve fail’d to nick a goal.
In headstrong wickedness serene,
You fear’d not parson, king or queen;
Your Bible was the BULLYTEEN;
Wherefore, your name is off the roll.
No picnic on these meadows green,
No part in this celestial scene,
For your unconquerable soul.
March down yon steps — the doom is just —
Growl you may, but Go you must.”



Source:
K. B. [Kate Baker] (editor), The Poems of Joseph Furphy, Melbourne: Lothian Book Publishing Co., 1916, pages 20-21

Editor’s notes:
Bullyteen = The Bulletin newspaper, also abbreviated as the “Bully” (this involved a positive inference, with “bully” meaning jovial or high-spirited, as distinct from “bully” referring to someone who harasses people weaker in nature or physique)

doom = a terrible fate, especially death or destruction

kick against the goad = to uselessly defy, rebel, or resist; a goad, or prick, was a stick with a sharp point, which was used to control farm oxen, by prodding them in the legs, so as to prod them onwards, or to move them in a different direction, but if an animal became annoyed and kicked against a goad it would cause it pain, thus becoming a useless or painful act of defiance, rebellion, or resistance; the phrase “kick against the goads” (or singular “goad”), or “kick against the pricks”, appears in the Bible, in Acts 26:14, as a phrase said by God to Saul (later known as Paul) on the road to Damascus (the phrase also appears in Acts 9:5, primarily in the King James version)

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